Hunt's on to bring worlds to Ottawa

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

The challengers have stepped forward and the gloves are off in the battle to host the 2009 world junior championship.

Ottawa is taking another kick at the can, up against six bids to host the prestigious event.

The deadline to submit letters of intent passed yesterday, with Toronto, London, Edmonton/Calgary, Saskatoon, Quebec City and Montreal joining Ottawa in the fight.

Ottawa has made previous attempts, including bids for the last three in Canada, including the successful Vancouver event, which wrapped up last month with the home team winning gold.

The other cities that hosted when Ottawa tried to get the tournament were Halifax (2003) and Winnipeg (1999).

Vancouver received the nod over Ottawa during the last selection three years ago, although hockey fans in this city showed overwhelming support by purchasing more than 18,000 deposits of $25 on tickets for the tournament.

OTTAWA A FAVOURITE?

Ottawa is seen as a favourite this time, but bid leaders are cautious, trying to avoid saying something that could damage the effort or appear to be in any way too confident.

"We stand like any other city. We're at the same level," said Ottawa District Hockey Association president Jules Lavictoire.

Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt, who is also fronting this bid along with the Senators after being involved in the three previous attempts, believes the city has a good shot.

"We're going to focus about talking about our assets and what we have to offer and use that to convince the committee," said Hunt.

"We've got great stories to tell in Ottawa. We're consistently -- year in and year out -- the No. 1 junior hockey market in the world."

The tournament has boomed in Canada in recent years, with host cities attracting huge crowds for tournament games.

In Vancouver, some 325,000 fans attended games at various venues, setting an attendance record and helping the tournament post a reported $9-million profit.

The event has also turned into a TV bonanza for TSN, receiving some of its largest viewership ratings for world junior broadcasts.

Bidding cities will fine-tune their presentations for the selection committee, which includes Bob Nicholson, Scott Smith and Rene Marcil from Hockey Canada, and CHL president David Branch.

Written proposals are due before March 31, live presentations will be made to the committee in April, and Hockey Canada will announce the host city May 15.

"It's a major event and it involves a lot of people," said Lavictoire. "Whoever is bidding must be prepared to work hard."

Ottawa's bid will use Scotiabank Place and the Civic Centre for most tournament games, and will also likely include the Robert Guertin Centre, home of the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques, as an additional venue.

The Ottawa, Toronto and London bids are seen to have a geographic edge. No Ontario city has hosted the world junior in 20 years since Hamilton in 1986.

HABS' ANNIVERSARY

Montreal, which hosted the event in 1978, is viewed as a sentimental choice, with the Canadiens bidding for the tournament to kick off the franchise's 100th anniversary celebrations.

However, that effort could be hurt by the fact no major junior hockey franchise exists within an hour's drive of the city's downtown, the closest being Drummondville some 100 km away, and that recent major junior ventures in Montreal and its suburbs have failed.

Other Canadian host cities were Red Deer in 1995 and Saskatoon in 1991.


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